Guest Blog by Graham Webster, Co-ordinator for ‘In Time, In Land’
“We might think that the use of containers in art projects and as housing is a fairly recent development, belonging to the guerrilla movement. However, as early as the 1940s, architects were already considering how shipping containers could have alternative uses. Perhaps most influential was Le Corbusier, who sat on a postwar French committee which aimed to standardise the manufacturing industry. This need interestingly came from the shipyards; with certain parts for warships frustratingly made to metric or imperial sizes. And so Le Modulor (The Modular) was created, a series of illustrated drawings which created a standardised scale of measurement based on the human body. This ultimately led Le Corbusier to develop La Maison Standardisée (The Standardised House), a simple illustration of how three sizes of prefabricated units could be arranged and stacked in order to build the perfect house.The Modular system is still in use today, with the maximum length in the scale – 2.20 meters – used as the same internal height in the standardised shipping container.
There haven’t been many art projects in Scotland as yet that are container based, and in designing the exhibition, we wanted to select work that would fit naturally with the feel of the container, the former industrial site, and the rolling landscape that surrounded us. Julia Complin’s woven textiles were framed against the bare walls to create the illusion of space, the wind giving subtle movement to the works. We lifted John Creed’s fairytale-like umbrella stand to make use of the height of the space, whilst his sleek swan-neck book ends reflected interesting found-objects that we came across on the site. Steven and Ffion Blench – known collectively as CHALK – meanwhile loaned us uniformed white plaster tiles, which mirrored the corrugation of the container, and two larger panels which looked like they had grown from the walls. Carolyn Scott’s sound piece, which we separated from a visual part of the work, echoed past voices of the site in the lower level of the silo. Although several of those heard in the recordings have now unfortunately passed, their fond memories live on. A personal favourite is of winters at the factory, where the men would sit among the bulky bags of sugar in the store to keep warm, sharing cigarettes.
We had a fantastic response to the project across both weekends. With lots of visitors from the local community, many got stuck into the weaving, plaster, sound and spinning workshops we facilitated. Each activity provided a differing tactile experience; from Complin’s fine threads, CHALK’s wet plaster, Creed’s cold metal, to the fluffy, untreated wool of local weaver Jen Hendry on our closing day. An experience that will definitely stay with me from the project was listening to participants In Creed’s workshop play the silo. Having inserted a mouth piece through one of the holes where sugar (and latterly grain) would have once poured, the a deep resonance boomed through the towering structure – giving life to the factory once more.”